“Skyscraper” is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber. Interesting deviation from his more typical fare of comedies. The ever-charismatic Dwayne Johnson does his leading man thing alongside Neve Campbell and Pablo Schreiber.
I’m a cynical optimist. In spite of my grouchy nature, I’m always looking for the best in a movie. Some of the worst movies ever made find places in my favorites list, just because there’s something so fun about them. Damn, I really wanted that to be the case for “Skyscraper.”
There was such potential. “Skyscraper” tells the high octane story of a dedicated father (Dwayne Johnson) who goes to great lengths to rescue his wife (Neve Campbell) and children from a burning skyscraper. Throw in betrayal and mob shenanigans and you’ve got a great action cocktail. Probably a Molotov cocktail, in this case.
A simple and cinematic concept, how do you mess it up?
The number one issue with “Skyscraper” is that it is predictable almost to the point of being hamfisted. Way to show your hand and clue us in on the ending in the first fifteen minutes, movie! I can appreciate tropes and genre formula but there has to be some finesse and creativity in there. “Skyscraper” is so…by the book. Everything plays out exactly like you would expect; everyone does exactly what you predict they’re going to do.
Let me tell you, the villains of “Skyscraper” are evil with a capital E. You can sniff out a double agent a mile away and the baddies are mustache-twirling levels of cartoonish. If the goal was to surprise us with a twist betrayal, maybe don’t have those characters be so broody and obvious?
It wasn’t just the baddies that were painfully obvious. When screening this movie, I scrawled exactly one note down. It reads: “It’s almost like this movie knows that it is a movie.”
I know, I know, that action films are among the more fantastical of the genres. We get off on the improbability. We’re looking for Superman. But, there’s a line. The line between “Well, these explosions are fun” and rolling my eyes was a little too blurred for my taste. Furthermore, if we’ve already decided to go the big, burly action direction can we just cool it with the feel-good elements? I appreciate the version of 2018 masculinity that has a hunk of a man like The Rock being all soft and family oriented, but c’mon. Let’s be real with ourselves and acknowledge that this movie was made for the spectacle and that trying to inject a deeper emotion serves no one.
I know what I signed up for, it’s okay.
Don’t hold it against me – I’m only coming down on “Skyscraper” so hard because I really believed in the potential. I will give credit where credit is due. This is an absolutely cinematic film. “Skyscraper” buys in all the way to being as spectacle piece, not dissimilar to such classics as “The Towering Inferno.” We’re looking at some beautiful set pieces and really fantastic effects elements. It gets the heart pounding.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a genuine movie star. He’s so fun to watch and I’m almost always seduced into liking near everything he does. It’s also worth noting that Johnson’s shoulders are deserving of their own film credit. My GAWD does this movie lean hard on extensive shots of straining muscles. It’s a cheap tactic, but I’m not mad at it. However, even the charisma of its leading man could not quite save “Skyscraper.”
I condemn thee, “Skyscraper,” to rental status. It’s fun, but not fun enough to buy a ticket.
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.